Memoirs of a Geisha

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Published on: 2006.04.11

(A Movie Review)

I haven’t read any other reviews or critiques of this movie, so I don’t know what the professionals are saying. I only know that many friends and colleagues said it was “good.”

That one-word description works for me.

I didn’t find anything fantastic or superb about the movie, except that it draws the viewer in. In fact, for the first two-thirds of the film, I was wondering what was so good about it. It seemed to me to be merely a “coming-of-age” story about a girl in Japan.

However, by the last third, I was sufficiently invested in the story to wonder what would happen, and how it would turn out. It turned out well.

The story-telling aspect of the movie was well-done, and the depiction of pre-war Japan, as well as the contrast with post-war Japan appeared to be as accurate as Hollywood can manage. The film-work was above-par, though some of the segues from scene to scene were a little distracting.

Overall, the story gives the viewer a peaceful feeling, the feeling that one should get from a good story, including movies. The feeling that everything can work out in the end. That some good can come of tragedy.

This, I think is the magic of Hollywood that first drew me into my addiction with movies. A really good story, told with the right kind of acting, the right kind of filmwork, and well-developed characters, can convince or fool the viewer into thinking that real life will turn out just as well. It’s a romantic sense of life that’s constantly disappointed me in reality, but continues to draw me into movies and books.

In other words, the story tells you that after life’s has thrown its hardships at you, it gives up if you persist in hoping and if you remain a good person at heart. After a certain time, you’ll get what you “deserve.”

Of course, real life isn’t always like that. It’s what makes these kinds of movies so attractive.

So, I would recommend “Memoirs of a Geisha,” simply because it’s a well-told story. For you family-oriented movie watchers, the movie shies away from gratuitous nudity and sex, though sexual activity is kind of a subplot to the story. Had the film been made by a less discerning director, it might contain more obvious references to the seedier side of a geisha’s life. As it was, the story focused on the hopes and dreams of a young girl, and how she carried them in her bright-eyed soul even past very real disappointments. There’s no foul language, and very little violence. All of this should keep the concerned parents happy.

Take a look at it, as I’ve said. Just don’t expect a blockbuster. It’s not the best film of the year, and maybe even not the best on the “new release” list. But it’s pretty darn good.

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